The Next Generation’s Hunter

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by Tom Cannon

I grew up with a serious passion for hunting and fishing. My dad only hunted upland birds, but that was enough to light the wick and get me started. Later in life when I had my own vehicle, I began to broaden my horizons. By trial and error I learned to hunt big game and waterfowl. Several decades, and hundreds of mistakes later; I have progressed to the next stage… That of coach and instructor.

The last few years have been spent introducing my daughter Kylee, to the great outdoors. Sure she grew up exposed to the tools, animals, and gear; I never really knew if she would have a desire to spent much time afield. We progressed down the path with baby steps. First at six or seven years old, she began to shoot a miniature .22 rifle. That lead to a slightly larger framed .22 rifle and then a toy bow and arrow. When she reached the age of nine, she was getting more mature and mentioned she would like to try deer hunting.

Thus we purchased a youth model .243 rifle and set it up for her. I introduced her to it with reduced power, hand loads. Once she got comfortable with the very light loads, I progressively worked her way up to full power Fiocchi hunting ammo.

kylee shooting

Our first year, age nine was fun but a bit challenging. It was difficult for her to sit still and then be comfortable. Kylee did manage to fill her first deer tag with a nice doe which she shot all on her own.

Her sophomore year had its share of hurdles. Lack of deer movement at times, lead to restlessness and lack of desire to go out. A bit of encouragement and sweet talking was needed to keep the girl on track. Once more she hit her mark and brought home another doe.

Last year, she inquired if she could shoot a buck, since I had relegated her to does only previously. Since she was getting more of a desire to hunt, I purchased her two tags; one of which was a youth buck tag. We labored through some cold weather, and Kylee gained some insight into deer behaviors. Her rifle range extended to seventy yards, where she could effectively shoot on her own (although I was always next to her supervising). Although we saw a few bucks, none of them was reckless enough to set foot inside her restricted shooting range. Once more she tagged another nice doe and was really starting to mature and enjoy herself in the hunting blind.

Fall began to approach this year and we brought out the .22 rimfire rifle for more extensive practices. Since she was getting proficient with the .22, I began to extend her rifle range. Now she was going to be allowed to shoot to one hundred yards or just beyond. We once more discussed and viewed the vital sections of a deer ‘s body. Repeatedly she inquired about the possibility of shooting a buck. With a buck and a doe tag in her possession, we happily left the license counter. Her conversation on the way to the car was all about her desire for a big buck this year.

Youth weekend brought consistent deer movement, yet none of it within Kylee’s shooting range. Having discussed the fact that she would take the first good opportunity at a mature deer, either buck or doe, we were ready. Late on the last evening, movement had been slow. So much that she wanted to leave early much to my dismay. Since her mind was made up, I packed up the gear while she unloaded her rifle. As any hunter knows- that is the sound animals cherish. Seconds later a trio of does stroll by, well within easy shooting range. Kylee learned a valuable lesson that evening about staying put until shooting time is over!

kylee 2014 doe

Since she prefers to sleep late, morning hunts are rarely an option! Thus afternoons are when we have to get after it. Since youth weekend was complete, we now had two weekends to fill her tags. Luckily the first weekend, she observed a mature doe at eighty yards. One shot with her trusty rifle and it was down! A quick check of my watch, revealed we still had an hour left to hunt. I asked her if she wanted to stay in  hopes that a buck might walk out? When she relied, “no Dad, I don’t want my deer season to end yet…” ; I knew I had the making of a real hunter in my mist.

The following weekend, warmer weather and high winds resulted in tough hunting. Still, my lessons about persistence were beginning to take hold. Upon reaching the box blind and stowing our gear, she loaded her rifle but after a few minutes got restless. Her electronic game began to draw all of her attention, until I nudged her. I pointed to a doe that was being followed by a nice buck. Quietly the game was placed in a bag while her rifle began to ease up to the shooting rail. Due to the hard right angle, Kylee was going to have to sit on my lap to make the shot.

At the crack, he staggered… I had enlightened her previously that bucks can be tougher to drop than does, and had tutored her to always fire a second shot if the animal doesn’t go right down. Quickly she worked the bolt and sent another Fiocchi round downrange. This time the beast was down for good! As we glassed him with our binoculars to ensure there was no movement, she began to assess the situation. I don’t recall the exact words she spoke but the excitement she had was nothing to the invigoration I felt! I have been fortunate to take some trophy class animals in my lifetime yet Kylee’s achievement on that night was the highlight of my hunting career!

It seemed she was walking on air, as we approached the downed buck. She had been taught to focus on the vitals and shot placement, and had never realized the size of this buck until we laid hands on him. A moment of overwhelming excitement over took her for a second or two. Then we thanked God for our successful hunt and put her tag on her first buck. Fortunately we had a few minutes of daylight left in which to snap a few photos that would last a lifetime.

Then as we walked hand in hand back to the truck, she asked me about Elk hunting and I knew I had just encountered the next generation’s hunter!

 

 

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GREAT GEAR: Drake Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket

by Tom Cannon

drake non-typical-silencer-soft-shell-jacket-dAxDkxTW

This is a product review of the new Drake Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket, (Drake item # DW 5105). Yes the name is a mouthful, and it is the first item we have tested from Drake’s new big game clothing line, known as Non Typical gear.

I was in need of a new bow hunting jacket so this item arrived at the perfect time. My first opinion of it when I opened the box was, “wow this is pretty light weight – I hope its warm!” Also I was impressed by the subtleness of the material and how quiet it was. Immediately I tossed it in the washer with some Scent-A-Way detergent in order to use it on the next day’s hunt.

Halloween dawned and this would be the first opportunity I had to bow hunt this year. Likewise, I got a chance to test out the Non Typical jacket in a true field setting. I was fortunate to arrow a nice older buck early in the morning. While I was quite pleased with the fact I filled my buck tag, I hadn’t really run the Drake Non Typical jacket through its paces.

drake non typical bowhunter

I was impressed with the movement of the jacket and how the sleeves did not restrict any movement when drawing a bow. My experience as a bow hunter has shown this is the toughest thing to get right in a coat. Drawing your bow takes a lot of motion and movement of the body and any jacket design flaws will immediately show as the hunter gets uncomfortable, pinched or short sleeved while doing so. In fact the jacket was very comfortable and did not bind one bit through any range of motion I tried. I was able to draw and stay at full draw just as I would in short sleeves. What’s more is that the sleeves are not bulky. This is another issue I have with many hunting coats. Sleeves are thick and bulky and can catch the bow string when an arrow is released. I can tell you from experience that if the bowstring touches your coat sleeve it will be an in-accurate shot!

November first arrived and so did a major cold front. A crisp twenty-five degrees read the temperature guage with a north wind at twelve miles to fifteen miles  an hour. Wind chill made it worse enough that I observed deer with frost on their backs! In fact, everything was covered in frost. Hey what better day to test out the Non Typical Silencer Jacket? I still had a doe tag to fill so, I climbed up into another tree stand for a few hours.

Several hours later, I had witnessed a 140 inch buck chasing does around. A smaller buck walked right under my stand but no does ventured close enough for a bow shot. My coat did its job very well. My body stayed warm and dry. The severe wind didn’t cut through my coat. I have totally agree with the name “Silencer” as the jacket made ZERO noise even when rubbing on tree bark. The extra length covers your butt and prevent any draft when sitting or standing in the wind. Wrists were anchored by Drake’s noteworthy Velcro like strap closure which works well to keep warmth in and moisture and wind out.

Outside the jacket had a big handwarmer type pocket ( zippered) at the bottom edge of each side. At chest level there was a zippered pocket on the right breast and a Magnatouch (magnetic) pocket on the left breast. The main zipper was a nice heavy duty type that zipped all the way up to the top of the neck. It would be nice if the zipper would allow it to be zipped completely up but also be able to un-zip the lower portion. This is handy when wearing a tree stand harness.

tom 2014 archery buck

The Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket is constructed of a polyester exterior material which the camo pattern is integral. Hunters can choose between Realtree Xtra, and Mossy Oak Bottomland camo patterns. Internally the jacket is lined with a 400 gram fleece fabric that as I mentioned performs very well at providing warmth and wind protection. The elbows, inner arms, and faces of the pockets feature a nice chocolate color material to reinforce them. The collar zips all the way up to your neck which is nice for those windy days and it also prevents your bowstring from snagging.

Overall, I would have to say Drake has hit a home run with this jacket. Light weight warmth, silent material, and not restrictive in use; what more could a hunter ask for? The Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket is the perfect companion for bow hunters or rifle hunters. Get more information on this Non Typical jacket or any Drake item at www.Drakewaterfowl.com

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Don’t Miss The Boat; Check Out These Innovative New Hunting Products for Fall 2014

By Tom Cannon

4 rivers ebads

Another fall hunting season rapidly approaches, bringing with it the many hopes of hunters. Whether it is a trophy class buck you chase, or the feathers of migrating waterfowl, here are several new products that will peak your interest.

First, since many waterfowlers have already begun the quest to the northern promise lands, here are a few items that might just help bag a limit.

fiocchi gold goose

Never am I without my trusty Fiocchi ammo whether it be their Gold line of premium shotgun shells such as the Golden Waterfowl, Golden Goose, or Golden Pheasant loads which are made with plated shot for harder hits and deeper penetration on game birds. New for this year, the Golden Pheasant loads including the GPX version (1485 fps) are available in a four box set that is packed in a heavy duty Plano waterproof box. That’s just the ticket to keep shells dry and organized on that out of state trip!

fiocchi plano box2

Likewise, if we are hunting big game, our rifles are stoked with nothing else than Fiocchi Extrema hunting loads, which feature clean burning powders and premium aftermarket bullets from Hornady or Sierra for one shot kills. This fall Fiocchi has new loads in .223, 22-250, 243, and a new caliber the 300 Blackout. Oh yeah, Fiocchi offers a Plano box loaded with .223 or .308 ammo for those high volume rifle shooters and varmint control specialists! Fiocchi never rests, but you can see their latest new products at www.FiocchiUSA.com

The name and logo of Drake Waterfowl is very distinctive, just like their gear. For 2014, Drake has re-invented the breathable wader. Check out the new and improved, EST 2.0 waders! A complete once over was done to improve the fit and comfort. Higher sides now allow the hunter (or angler) to wade into deeper water. Drake improved the knee area by adding their own Hydro-Flex knee pads to improve comfort when kneeling and Drake also added pleats to the knees to reduce binding when bending over or squatting down. A three layer waterproof and durable but breathable fabric in several camo patterns completes the exterior. Of course the EST waders still have all the pockets and buckle free straps that hunters expect from Drake.  These waders are available in standard and waist high (boat pants) versions as well. See more details at the website, www.Drakewaterfowl.com

drake est 20 waders

Yet another unique item from Drake is their new Swamp Sole Backpack. This slick backpack features a molded plastic bottom to prevent the contents of the pack from getting wet if it was to be placed on a wet boat floor, duck blind or muddy field. Pockets and more pockets are the theme in the Swamp Sole. The exterior is covered with different sized compartments as well as ten shot shell loops. Let’s not forget a padded sunglasses case that is integral as well as a water bottle pouch. This is a well thought out, and handy item for the hunter. Although it was designed for duck and goose hunters it would work equally well for deer hunters also.

drake swamp sole bag

One item that really intrigues me is the field blind. I have several different models and all work fine but none really excel. Heavy Hauler Outdoor Gear has a new low profile blind, known as the FLP, or Fast, Light, Packable. This new blind weighs in at only nine pounds and folds up into a tight little package to make those treks into the corn or wheat fields easier. The maximum height is sixteen inches tall so it will conceal easy. Stubble straps cover the exterior to help make concealment complete. A mesh head cover allows the hunter to see yet stay concealed. The rear of the blind transforms into a bag to store the hunter’s extra gear. I hope to do an in-depth review of the FLP Blind at a later date, so stayed tuned, or inspect it for yourself at www.HeavyHaulerOutdoorgear.com

heavyhauler flp blind2

Whether you hunt waterfowl, deer, predators, big game, or just like to watch birds and wildlife, nothing beats a good set of optics. Alpen Optics has been producing award winning “glass” for years. This fall, Alpen introduces their Ranier 25-75 x 86, spotting scope. Its must have item for anyone who needs high quality optics in order to view their chosen quarry at extreme distances.  The Ranier series is Alpen’s super premium line of optics and like all Alpen products it features a no fault lifetime warranty. This spotting scope incorporates a 45 degree eye piece for ease of viewing in most conditions. The internal optics have UBX high definition coatings to enhance low light images. Additionally the Ranier spotting scope utilizes “O” rings and nitrogen filled components and is guaranteed to be waterproof in any environment. If you haven’t taken a close look at the Alpen Optics line of binoculars, rifle scopes, spotting scopes and accessories then you are missing the boat. Alpen has won seven awards from Outdoor Life in their product tests in recent years, for their high quality optics at unbelieveable prices. Find your local dealer or just inspect the Ranier, Apex, or Shasta models of Alpen Optics at www.AlpenOptics.comalpen ranier spot scope

One of the best kept secrets in waterfowling is the use of layout boats. Four Rivers Layout Boats were one of the originators of “stealth duck hunting” boats and they produce some of the finest hand crafted low profile boats in the country. The latest creation from Four Rivers is the SOBADS boat. This eleven foot model is built to handle nearly anything a hunter can dish out. Approved for a seven horse power motor, it is best served with a “mud motor” which will push this SOBADS boat through thick and thin waters, over stump fields, across sand bars and dikes and into those hard to reach duck holes. The SOBADS boat will float in two inches of water while carrying nearly five hundred pounds! Did I mention all Four Rivers Layout Boats are hand built here in the U. S.? These incredibly safe and stable boats will get you to and from your destination with ease and once there they disappear with little effort. In fact I have had ducks light within feet of my Four Rivers Refuge Runner boat on numerous occasions! View the incredible videos to see firsthand what the SOBADS boat is capable of. www.FourRiversLayoutBoats.com 4 rivers sobads

Big game hunters have been installing trail cameras for years but in recent years things have really evolved. Browning, is best known for their innovative firearms, but recently they entered the trail camera industry in a big way, grabbing top honors in several field tests. Two of their latest trail cameras, highlight the overall quality of their lineup. The Strike Force model is a great value for hunters on a limited budget or who need several trail cams for different locations.  Don’t judge it by its size, (the smallest camera in the industry) because the Strike Force packs a lot of punch! Browning included a 10 Megapixel display camera system along with HD quality video capacity and long battery life. In fact the Strike Force was able to take up to ten thousand photos with one set of batteries (6 AA). It also had great reviews for its ease of use from Trailcampro.com.  Browning_spec_ops_2014-281x351

Browning also makes a big brother, the Spec Ops trail camera. This higher end model generated a nearly perfect review from Trailcampro.com, and has been selling well among individuals requiring a surveillance camera for security purposes as well as hunters! One of the key components for the rave reviews is the fact that the Browning Spec Ops trail cam has a “no glow infrared”, thus it can take photos at night undetected. This feature never spooks game or “crooks” who may be either poaching or up to devious behavior. It also has 10 megapixels, and great battery life from the 8 AA batteries that fit into the easy slide out tray. What I thought was really cool was the integral two inch color screen inside that allows the owner to view BOTH PHOTOS and VIDEO right there without removing the camera from the tree! This trail cam is also able to take up to ten thousand photos from a set of batteries. Additionally the exterior of the Spec Ops is nearly perfect, as it blends right into most tree bark, thus remaining undetectable by passing humans. In reviews it ranked in the ninety-five percentile of all trail cams for trigger speed and recovery time. See the entire line at www.BrowningTrailCameras.com

drake non typical silencer jacket

Although Drake is bursting on the scene with its line of big game clothing, by no means are they new to producing hunting clothing for use in extreme conditions. In fact what Drake has done for waterfowl hunters, it hopes to do for deer hunters; keep them warm and dry in tough conditions! Take for instance, the new Non-Typical series of clothing specifically made for big game hunting. Need quiet exterior fabrics? Drake has that with their Silencer jackets and pants. Weatherproof and warm gear for treestands or high altitude treks? Try on the new Drake Sherpa Fleece pants, bibs and jackets. They even have headwear including, beanies, caps, and neck gaiters all in either Mossy Oak Bottomland or Realtree Xtra camo patterns. Face it, we all know that Drake keeps duck hunters warm and dry so why not deer, moose and elk hunters as well? I will have an in-depth field test of some of the new Non-Typical gear in coming weeks so stay tuned or visit, www.DrakeWaterfowl.com for more details and images.

fiocchi poppers

Let’s not forget our canine hunting partners. While scanning the latest catalogs, my pal Vito, continually bumps my arm reminding me it’s time to train for the upcoming season. Any pro athlete wants their training to be as realistic as possible, therefore let us simulate a hunting scenario when training our dogs. We try to keep a shotgun handy that is loaded with Fiocchi “poppers” or blanks to reinforce the gunshot and falling game methodology. As with all Fiocchi USA products, the poppers and blanks are clean so they won’t fowl your shotgun. Likewise, I cast out a Retrieve-Rite bumper made by Drake Waterfowl Systems. It can be throw long distances yet is durable and lifelike.

drake retrieve rite dummy

Besides stocking up on gear, early season is the last chance to earn points on the home front. Ensure the chores are all done and all the summer projects are completed! Warn your boss of impending cold fronts and buy plenty of batteries for the camera as this fall is setting up perfectly for a memorable hunting season!

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CALL NOTES: Molt Gear EX-Reflex Goose Call

Reflex-call colors

By Tom Cannon

No stranger to the waterfowl industry, Scott Threinen, has established himself among those elite, who have won multiple calling titles. In Scott’s case, three World Live Goose Championships, dozens of other contest honors, and trophies.

Upon reaching the pinnacle of goose calling, Threinen, formed Molt Gear, and produced what can arguably be called the most successful instructional goose calling DVD on the market. That initial foray was in 2006, with the Bad Grammar CD, then two years later followed suit with the DVD by the same name. In years since, he has produced several other duck and goose DVD’s and followed that endeavor up with his first call; the EX3, in 2012.

Now in 2014, Molt Gear has recently introduced its premier goose call; The EX Reflex. Scott and his staff have invested about eighteen months of work in the shop and of course in the field. Multiple changes have taken place since the first prototype left the CNC machine. Scott began his creation from the outside; creating the look he wanted then worked inside as he progressed. Multiple changes in angles, lengths,and diameters; down to thousandths of an inch, were intregral in the developmental process of the new call.

The EX Reflex Call features a unique internal bore design. Scott explained it as a “compression chamber” which tightly focuses the air; essentially generating back pressure effortlessly. Since the bore is not straight, the call breaks easily and has fast response.

reflex closeup

 

Molt Gear installs their own green, worn in, “Phantom” guts in the EX Reflex call, for maximum performance. As described by Threinen, the Phantom guts are created from a set of guts that he personally blew (wore in) for two and a half years. He determined that was the optimum time it takes to create the proper vibration, range, and tone of a mature Canada goose. The “wore in” guts create more reed travel than a new set of guts allowing more vocalization and a better “goosey” sound. Reeds are hand shaved and feature an angled front edge for more pop. Obviously the time it takes to break in the guts, create a master set or mold and reproduce them is no easy process yet it is essential to the performance of Scott’s best goose call to date; the EX Reflex.

Currently the EX Reflex is available only in acrylic. Like all of Molt Gear’s calls, the EX Reflex are hand produced once they leave the CNC machine. They are polished by hand to prevent changing the molecular structure of the acrylic material, then lazer engraved, and hand painted. The insert with the wore in, hand shaved guts is installed and then the call is hand tuned. Scott mentioned that he and his staff tune a hundred or so of any new call before they determine how each individual call needs to be tuned to produce the best sounding call for the customer.

Compared to its predecessor, the EX3; the EX Reflex is ½ inch shorter in length. Scott states the Reflex is faster with an increased range and tone. Additionally it is a bit sharper or higher pitched than his previous calls.

reflex hunt pic

For more information on the EX Reflex call as well as all the other calls go to www.Moltgear.com

 

 

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Banding Geese for Conservation

by Tom Cannongoose flock

Recently I was able to participate in a unique conservation opportunity with employees of Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. We were going to embark on a day of banding Canada Geese. Nearly all waterfowl hunters and birders know that state and federal agencies band birds annually, in an effort to study their flight patterns and life cycles. Although I have been fortunate enough to harvest several bands in my hunting career, I had never had the chance to actually put a band on a bird!

Thus when I was given the opportunity to join biologist Tom Bidrowski and his crew, I jumped on it. Tom is the Migratory Game Bird Program Manager for the state of Kansas.  The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) crew was doing a study on resident Canada geese throughout the state. They were banding in several locations in recent days and we were to meet at Perry Lake in eastern Kansas.  Since I had a great opportunity to pass on a bit of wildlife conservation, I coaxed my daughter Kylee into coming along. kylee goose backgrd

Upon arrival, Kylee and I jumped in with biologist Rich Schultheis, who was assisting Bidrowski in the study. As he drove, Rich explained that the KDWP was in the middle of a five year program on resident geese. Each year their goal was to band two thousand local or resident geese, so they could track and study any migration patterns and learn more about the population in Kansas. Although we would be working with the KDWP biologists, they were in fact also coordinating their efforts with other states in the Central Flyway (North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado) to gain a better understanding of managing geese in the region.  featherless goose wing

For a short period of time, typically just two to three weeks in end of June or first part of July, geese are flightless while they molt their wing feathers. It is during this cycle that biologists are able to collect them, place metal bands on their legs, and determine the sex and age of the goose. banding a goose

These metal bands are issued by the U.S. Geological Service, which receives, tracks  and coordinates all the information on bands. The USGS provides the bands so that there is no overlap of numbers or confusion in the efforts to track and learn where each bird was banded or found. Additionally there are programs for nearly all birds from hummingbirds to eagles. released goose

Since it is information that needed, all geese are captured and released unharmed and usually in the same area where they were found. On this day, a pair of KDWP biologists would paddle out on kayaks and begin to drive the geese toward shore. Other biologists and volunteers would lie in wait on the shoreline and form a human fence, effectively herding the geese into a chosen location. At that point the crew would quickly assemble portable fence panels to create a corral in which to house the birds. goose corral

Once the birds were captured, the true work began. A few members hoped in with the geese and sorted out any that were previously banded. Those birds were plucked, (pun intended) from the enclosure and the band information recorded for later use. Once the goose was identified it was released and they quickly sought out the security of the water. Once all the previous bands were done, we then turned our attention to “new” birds. The biologists hoped to catch both adult and juvenile geese. The newly hatched geese offered perfect information since it is easily proven they were born there at the capture site. Researchers have no way of knowing where adult geese came from; whether they are true residents of if they migrated into the area and stayed. 009

The “new” geese were collected individually, taken to a staff member who placed a band on its leg, then that same goose was taken to a biologist who determined sex and if it was an adult or juvenile bird. That information was communicated to a staff member who was seated next to him and the info was officially recorded for the study. sexing goose

As you can imagine, the geese were quite anxious and some were down right unruly! It becomes a somewhat messy affair after handling dozens of geese during the course of a hot day!  No harm was done to any and everyone was released unharmed. In the largest of several groups captured, we had approximately two hundred and fifty geese.  Keep in mind the KDWP staff was traveling throughout the state and conducting these programs at numerous lakes for an effective study.kylee banding goose

Toward the end of the day, the staff allowed us volunteers to learn all of the process. Each person was invited to actually place a band on a goose or two while Tom and Rich educated us on how to properly determine the sex of the goose. It was great opportunity for Kylee and I, and one of those rare days that we as hunters can actually put our conservation skills to use.

For more information on bird banding and the research it provides go to www.USGS.gov. Otherwise contact your local state fish and game department where you might be able to volunteer in a project like this. Thanks to Tom Bidrowski, Rich Schultheis and all of the KDWP crew and other volunteers who helped out. It was truly a great experience.

 

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CATFISH: The Other White Meat !

good size flathead & channelby Tom Cannon

When I think of summertime, I immediately think of certain things. Hot weather, ice tea, and catfish. What other fish fits the bill in the summer heat better than old “whisker lips”? To make the situation even better, most states have a very liberal daily creel limit on Catfish, allowing anglers to quickly and easily fill their freezer with some tasty fillets!

Let’s not get in a big debate about whether catching ‘Cats on rod and reel is the true feat compared to set lines. I say pick your passion and get after them! Recently I was able to get a free weekend and after consulting, John Trager, a local Catfishing guru, I immediately set a plan into action.

John, better known as Captain Catfish, is a legend in Kansas City fishing circles. In fact he helped popularize the fish in our urban areas, i.e. the Missouri and Kansas Rivers that flow through our city.

I needed just a bit of advice, and John’s opinion on the weekend moon phase was right on track. He mentioned that there would be a “dark” moon over the period I was considering and that often led to successful trips. Since I had an opportunity to sneak away from family issues, I loaded the boat and went out alone for some quiet time. There are hundreds of great Catfishing oppurtunities very close to most anglers. Any size impoundment, stream, river, or pond is bound to have an ample supply of ‘Cats. In fact I had this particular place to myself!

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention some of the prep work. First and foremost in a successful trip is bait. I learned from John that one of the keys to catching numbers and size of fish is good natural bait. Thus prior to heading out, I assembled my assitiant bait mate, and headed to my little perch hole. We have found that Berkley PowerBait Nibbles are perfect for catching sunfish. Nearly every real bait we have tried is stolen more times than naught, yet the PowerBait stays on the hook very well and catches tons of fish!kylee-catchingperch

We simply use any ultra light rod setup, although an extenedable Crappie pole is optimum as it allows the angler to dip the bait into holes in moss and under trees. Be sure to check your local regulations on live bait and what is legal to use. I try to catch fifty or so sunfish and immediately put them into an aerated cooler. Of course Catfish can be caught on prepared baits, cut baits (Asian Carp are perfect) natural “stink” or attractant baits and many other creations. If I have to pick another bait besides sunfish, my second choice would be liver. While thousands of folks use chicken livers, I prefer beef liver. Beef has a tougher texture and stays on the hook better than chicken livers. Additionally I pre cut my beef livers into nuggets to save time on the water.

This trip I was going to utilize set lines, but prior to hitting the water I contacted my local game warden. I needed to clarify daily possession limit regulations. He explained that if I stayed on the water overnight that even though I would be fishing two days, in Missouri I could not legally have more than one day’s limit on my boat or in my truck. Thus if I wanted to catch a “possession limit” which is normally a two day total, I would have to go home on the first day and return with an empty creel. Once again its critical to check your local rules.

Therefore, once I got to the river I immediately began to locate my favorite spots. With knowledge I had picked up from John and other anglers, I expanded on my best spots, choosing two more places to fish. One of my new picks was a deep scour hole where the normal six foot deep channel dropped to twenty foot! It was here I placed my longest Trotline of six or seven hooks. I then eased downstream and set out a few more Trotlines and limb lines, but ensuring I never went over the maximum number of hooks allowed per person.trotline full cats

I count my rigs and place them in a bucket before heading out, so I know exactly how many rigs I have out and don’t unknowingly go over my limit. One trick I have found that makes labeling your lines easy is this… I take the address labels that come in the mail by the hundreds. I affix them to clear shipping tape so both sides are covered in tape. Then when I set a line I simply tape this semi-weatherproof name tag to my line and I am legal. Remember that it is illegal and unethical to place or leave lines unattended without name tags. Also when your trip is done you are required to completely remove all your gear!

I had high hopes for this trip. After an hour or so I was completed rigged up. All the lines were wet and ready for fish. I anxiously gulped down a sandwich and drink as the sun began to set. Still I was alone yet surprisingly close to home and thousands of people!

My first stop, netted a three pound Channel Cat, and the fun never ended! Nearly every stop had a fish on the line. In fact, my favorite spot, a little channel swing with stumps on it had a trio of Cats in a row. Its always fun to see the line jumping and not know what lays in wait under the surface!

The first evening, I quickly had my limit of Channel Catfish with one bonus Flathead! Since I had my limit and was growing weary of the bugs, I loaded my boat and headed home. Once there I emptied my livewell into a large trough of cold water and laid down for a few hours rest. At sunrise, I awoke, anxious to once more be back on the water!cooler of catfish

Somehow, my hard work was paying off. I was fortunate to be on the water witnessing God’s creation and harvesting plenty of Catfish. Amazingly nearly every stop held fish! I quickly approached my limit and began to unhook and release small fish so I could continue to purse larger fish and enjoy the sunrise. At one of my new stops, I reached down and in the process of pulling up the main line, the line pulled back. Typically this is the trait of a heavy fish, so I listened to my experience and pulled on a heavy glove. Big fish can jerk the main line so hard that it cuts the skin on your hand like a knife. Having endured this previously, I was trying to learn from my mistakes! Although this fish was a good one, approximately a ten pound Channel, he wasn’t a monster but did put up a fight.

As I continued my journey from line to line, I was blessed with numerous three to five pound fish and for once no turtles or gar to contend with ! In short order I had my ten Channels but unfortunately no bonus Flatheads or Blue Cats. Thus at nine oclock I pulled all my lines and loaded the boat onto the trailer.

Of course on the ride home I had a couple phone calls to make. Upon arrival at home, the work was about to begin! I had two days limits to contend to and the sun was beginning to get high and hot! Still, I had the pleasure of a glorious night and day trip to reflect on as I slid the knife from once Catfish to the next. In short order I had a  couple dozen bags in the freezer and the knowledge that one heck of a fish fry was in order.catfish meat

The firm, white flesh of a Catfish may not be the most reverved fish in the water but never underestimate it. Nothing tops off a summer afternoon like some of the “other white meat” (Catfish) fired to golden perfection alongside some coleslaw, homegrown tomatoes and a cold beer. Now that’s what summer is all about!

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Signs of Spring

by Tom Cannon

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On the heels of a colder than normal winter, any sign that spring has arrived is welcome. Quite often the initial tip are the buds on trees and shrubs in our yards, or perhaps the first sighting of a Robin. Yet nothing means spring is here to me than White Bass!

Fishing for White Bass is a spring ritual in my home. Around these parts the “whites” are among the first game fish to bite well; becoming active when the waters warm to about fifty degrees. These aggressive fish, follow nature and migrate up the tributaries not long after ice off.

What’s more, White Bass are not tough to catch. Fishing for “whites” doesn’t involve a lot of work or tackle, merely a bit of effort. Scout your local lake or big river for the headwaters that feed it. Begin fishing at the mouth of where the stream enters the lake and gradually move upstream from there.

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Simple is effective, when chasing White Bass. A rod or two spooled with six to eight pound line and small to medium minnow imitation lures work best. My favorite bait for catching White Bass is the Culprit Tassel Tail Grub. A subtle curl tail grub designed originally for Crappie fishing, it is equally suited for Whites or other species. Pair the Tassel Tail Grub with a 1/8 or 1/16 ounce jighead and you have one of the most effective stream lures ever devised!tasseltailgrub

One never knows where the whites will be from one day to the next! These fish can cover ground faster than a woman at the mall! In fact I have found them a mile or more upstream in just one day. Additionally they can normally be found on plain banks at one moment then laying next to a stump or brush pile moments later.

Fan casting your Culprit grub or other lure to each and every foot of water is the best method to ambush a limit of whites. Once the primary location is found simply duplicate that until it quits producing and move upstream. Often increasing the retrieve speed of the lure will trigger some bites from lethargic White Bass. There isn’t a speed they can’t catch, so don’t be shy about burning a lure back to the boat.kylee fishing

I have yet to meet an angler who doesn’t like to catch a White Bass. Typically one can always tell the strike… Similar to having a dog jerk the leash out of your hand when he sees a cat! Even the smallest of whites thinks he is a giant fish and will have you laughing at the strength of the silver and white fish. A better fish to introduce a child to fishing has yet to be found! Bad casting, splashing lures into the water, nothing deters a hungry “white”.

For some reason White Bass get a bad rap at the dinner table. My friends and family never seem to loose their enthusiasm for the fish though. I always feel that preparation of any fish or game is critical and foremost importance. Ice is the key ingredient in my livewell. Every fish I plan to keep is immediately placed on ice. Once at  home I waste no time breaking out the fillet knife and quickly cleaning my day’s catch. Soak those fillets in water for several hours. In fact I also package my fillets in a bag of water to prevent any freezer burn. Once thawed simply run them through an egg wash and add seasoning, then drop into the fryer or broiler.

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If there is a better sign that spring has arrived than a mess of freshly cooked White Bass on the table; I have yet to find it! Oh yeah be sure to keep at least one hand on your fishing rod at all times, as every year someone has one jerked into the water by an angry White Bass !

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Spring Scouting for Improved Waterfowl Hunting

by Tom Cannon

geese pond load

Immediately after my waterfowl season ends, I like many hunters clean and stow my gear, and lament the previous season’s blessings and misgivings. Alas though, the curtain may have dropped on this waterfowl season, but I am already working on the future.

After a week or two earning points with the family, I am right back chasing ducks and geese. Usually about mid to late February in the central United States, we begin to get the reverse migration. Of course I instantly take notice of where, what species, as well as how many are present. My Alpen binoculars and spotting scope become my companions and my camera part of my attire.

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Quite a bit can be learned from the “northbound” birds. Through the last several years I augmented my knowledge of the habits and traits of my common quarry. Since I wasn’t concerned with killing them, I was truly able to investigate the birds’ intimately. I took notice of exactly where in my fields they like to land. What portions of the ponds were favored by puddle ducks versus honkers. Furthermore, how much natural calling the birds did and at what volume. Mentally I compressed this material for use during future seasons.  canvasbacks bunch

Photographs taken at the scenes help me research these facts at a later date. I have found better locations to hunt, where to place blinds, and what portions of the day these birds like to fly out or return. Photographs also help illustrate good camo, whether it be my Drake camo clothing, or the effectiveness of any permanent blinds on the properties. Do the birds shy away from those corners of the pond or marsh? If so they could be aware of any blinds there and thus cautious.

Photos also help me glean info on the effects of sunlight and how the birds react to it. This is critical in rising and setting sun conditions. For instance I noticed that the shady areas of my pond seemed to rarely be where the birds “lit”. Sure they often found their way to those “gray” areas but the vast majority flew and landed in well light areas where the sunlight had good penetration. This confirms that in nature, prey as well as predators realize the benefits of attack from a concealed location. I have since filed this away and will adjust my early morning hunts accordingly.

As mentioned previously, one of the most interesting tidbits I garnered was the actual calling of ducks and geese. Much to my dismay, when I was really able to concentrate on the birds and not the harvest, I was amazed. More times than not, the natural voices of the birds was quite tranquil. There was no “main street” calling from either duck or goose. Rarely did they actually get to the volume that we as hunters blast from our calls. The ducks and geese that I observed did get chatty and vocal at times but nary as loud as hunters calls.dux mallards, ringnecks, pintails

Additionally, since I live adjacent to some of my locations I am often within ear shot of approaching and departing birds. This area is frequented by many species of Canada geese, allowing me to overhear their individual accents for lack of a better word. The high pitch sound of a “lesser” is quite distinguishable from a “greater”. I often heard very different clucks, moans, or quacks. Individual birds had their own unique voice, some throaty and hoarse while others had a whiny chatter. This re-affirmed my opinion about the effectiveness of calling and bad notes.

I personally believe that good waterfowl calling is beneficial but not the most critical part of the overall puzzle. Knowing when and how to utilize that calling is much more imperative. My research showed that these birds were not spooked by strange; (often what would be considered terrible calling by a human), noises that came from the mouth (i.e. bill) of a duck or goose! In fact rarely did another bird take notice when a strange sound was uttered by a fellow wild duck or goose. Check for yourself… Drive to a local park or zoo and sit for a hour or two. I can guarantee you will pick up some “words and phrases” that these birds utter that you never considered previously.  I store these nuggets in my brain for use at a later date during the season.speck flying turning

Natural poses also interest me. I take notice of where and how the birds sit and loaf. When I witness the same scenario more than once I make a note to try that pattern when I set out my decoys during the season. Whenever possible, I attempt to gain a higher vantage point so that I can get an aerial view of the natural setups the birds choose. Once more that tidbit gets filed away for use during the season.

One of the tricks that I have really noticed lately is just pure observation skills. I really began to concentrate on approaching birds in good lighting, especially since they had their full plumage at this time. I made mental notes as to wing speed, posture and actions so that I can become a better judge of what specie it was. This will be especially helpful in the early season and during low light conditions. How many times do we think we shot a Mallard when it was actually a Gadwall or Widgeon?IMG_5264

Rarely do we get opportunities at Whitefront Geese where I hunt. Thus this spring I have noticed more than I have ever viewed anywhere. I made careful notes as to how to pick random “Specks” out of an incoming flight of Canada geese when they approach silently. This will pay huge rewards should that opportunity present itself next season! Knowing the subtleties of the different birds can help hunters pick up a bonus bird or two through their regular season. Lastly I began to “see” the birds better as they approached. I learned to pick out slight variations such as white rings on a”honker’s” neck, subtle mis-colorations or hybrid birds and I really began to distinguish bands at a distance.honkers band pair

Lastly, I am constantly on the prowl for any and all information I can gain that will make me a better hunter. I spend my waking moments listening to the birds, watching and learning what I can to improve my skills. Heck if nothing else, this is just another way to extend my season and enjoy God’s creation.

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Catching up with Jody Niccum; 2007 World Duck Calling Champion

In November of 2007, Jody Niccum of Overland Park, Kansas won the World Duck Calling Championship in Stuttgart, Arkansas. He became one of the youngest champions at age nineteen. At the time he was a college student who hunted on the weekends with his dad and brother Cory. This past fall Jody and I ran into each other and had a chance to hunt, catch up on the last seven years as well as speculate on what the future may hold for him.

At the time of championship Jody was a student at Baker University in Kansas, but eventually transferred to the University of Arkansas where he studied business. Next he became a branch manager of a local bank in Kansas but eventually found his way into his current job at KC Arborist, a local tree service company, where he works in sales.

jody niccum callingJody was introduced to duck hunting and duck calling by his dad, and accompanied him and brother Cory to their duck club in northwest Missouri. It was there that Jody met and became a student of Mike Keller, another Kansas City World Duck Calling Champion. Keller, brother Cory and Butch Richenback all influenced Jody’s calling style as did Pat Murrillo from Iowa. Much the same as he has done for many a contest caller, Butch Richenback gave Jody tips, tuned his call and encouraged him prior to the contest.

Upon winning his title Jody was able to spend several days hunting in the infamous waters of Stuttgart duck clubs. John Stephens, Jim Ronquest and several of the RNT Calls staff invited him to their haunts for some traditional southern duck hunting. Interestingly, Jody considers himself a better goose caller than duck caller and hopes to have an opportunity to win a world title in goose calling as well! At just twenty-five years of age this world champ has plenty of opportunity left for another title or two.

tom,jackson,jodyI was fortunate to hunt with Jody a few times this season and it was insightful. Duck season had closed previously thus we were committed to only geese. Still hearing Jody reach out to distant flocks and work his magic was worth the price of admission! Often those distant birds turned on a dime and headed our way for a look. Jody’s politeness made everyone feel at home but it was his polished calling that made the difference. We were able to grind out a limit which just made that day even better.

Currently Jody hunts when possible on weekends, and during the off season he competes in calling contests throughout the country. When he isn’t hunting or contest calling Niccum spends his off time with family, golfing or fishing bass tournaments in the area.

 

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GREAT GEAR: Drake Waterfowl, LST Eqwader 2.0

Drake Waterfowl is a house hold name in the waterfowl industry. They are known for innovative products for serious duck and goose hunters. A few years ago, Drake introduced their Eqwader line of hunting waders and those were well received. In fact Outdoor-Z.com, did one of the first field reviews of those original Drake waders, and I still have and use them!

Never a company to rest on its laurels, Drake, redesigned those waders and tweaked them a bit to an even higher standard. Thus the new Eqwader 2.0 wading system was introduced. My only issue with the original Eqwaders was that the arm pit opening was a bit low, thus limiting how deep I could go into the water by several inches. Drake addressed this by raising the “arm pit” nicely but still allowing the hunter to utilize their propriety hand warmer sleeve inside the wader.

Hunters will also immediately notice that all the seams on the Drake 2.0 Eqwaders are sealed! I have yet to see another manufacturer do this. Sealing the stitches and  seams should effectively reduce any moisture from seeping into the waders and ruining the hunt.

Although Drake previously had reinforced the knees, ankles and rear end of the original waders with a cordura type material, the 2.0 has gone beyond that. The new and improved 2.0 version has horizontal pleated material across the knees in what Drake refers to as Hydro-Flex knees. This gives additional protection to the knee area, preventing any tears or holes yet still allows full range of motion!

Like the originals, the 2.0 Eqwaders have boot buckle straps that allow the hunter to custom fit the boot. This really comes in handy when wading through that nasty, suction like mud that tries to yank your boots off as you trudge through it. Merely pull the boot strap tight, and nothing short of a boot horn will pull these waders off!

There are several different models of the new 2.0 Eqwaders, and they feature all the same advancements but differ in insulation. My Late Season version, (LST) were supplied with 5mm neoprene and 1600 gram Thinsulate boots for maximum warmth. I was able to put them to the ultimate test recently as we have dropped to a daytime high temperature of 15 to 20 degrees! I wore my usual wool socks and no foot warmers and was quite impressed with the warmth in the boot and body of these waders. They were quite roomy, and the inseam was comfortable for a six foot one inch fella. We had to bust some serious ice, and these waders were warm enough that I had to shed my Drake pullover while clearing a hole.

Most of the other features are similar to those found on the original Drake waders. I will say that the upper chest area has a new fabric on it that is very flexible. The two compartments that feature the Drake Magnattach closure have larger thus stronger magnets on them and they really stay closed well. The two (2) zippered compartments are truly waterproof as I can personally attest ! Additionally the shoulder straps have no buckles to hinder gun mounting or wear on your shoulder. The straps have plenty of adjustment built into them so that the hunter can adjust the strap length to fit his or her body height. A waist belt also comes in handy when wading deep waters. Six elastic shotshell holders across the front allow the hunter to always have some extra insurance with him in case a cripple needs dispatching while in the decoys. There are several different camo patterns available and sizing to fit most folks.

 

After wearing these new Drake LST, 2.0 Eqwaders, I truly believe Drake has hit another homerun! I see nothing that I would improve upon and plenty of things they did even better than before. Take a close look at these waders for yourself at your nearest retail store or visit www.Drakewaterfowl.com. I am sure you will be impressed !

 

 

 

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